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AN0OVEH-HARVARD THEOLOGICAL LIBRARY 
M D C C C C K 

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 



THE NEMESIS 
OF MEDIOCRITY 



By 

RALPH ADAMS CRAM 

LITT.D., LL.D. 




BOSTON 
MARSHALL JONES COMPANY 



MDCCCCXVII 



JAN 28 1918 

ANDOVER 
THeOLUuiCAL SEMQlAlf 



Copyrighty igiy 
By Marshall Jones Company 

All rights reserved 



PRINTED BY 
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, V. S. 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 



the nemesis of 
medick:rity 

*'Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that 
begat us. The Lord hath wrought ^reat glor^ by them 
through his ereat power from the begmning. Such as did 
bear rule in their kmgdomsy men renowned for their power, 
giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring 
prophecies. Leaders of the people by their counsels, and 
by their knowledge of learning meet for the people; wise 
and eloquent in their instructions. Such as find out 
musical tunes and recited verses in writing. Rich men 
furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habita- 
tions': All these were honourea in their generations and 
were the glory of their times." — ecclesiasticus: xliv. 

A LREADY the revelations of war have cast 
l\ their searching and mordant light 
-^ ^ on all that was brought over to us 
put of the last century, and nothing is as it 
seemed in those far and half mythical days 
when there was no war and we maintained 
a serene content well grounded on its broad 
base of solid accomplishment. It was a 
proud, even an august possession, this hoard 
of coined wealth such as men had never 
gathered before, made up as it was of all 
the broad and shining counters minted out 
of Renaissance, Reformation and Revolu- 
tion, and with this vast reserve our solvency 

[I] 




1 

k 



on 

the 

est, 

.ead 

with 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

seemed beyond suspicion. The touch of 
war is like that of the magician in the 
fairy tale, and enough of the bright counters 
already have turned to dried and worthless 
leaves to make us wonder if in the end a 
single coin may remain to us, honest gold, 
undipped and undebased. 

Some day the count of these revelations 
will be made up, but now the tale is not fully 
told, and we wait, aghast, as each day some 
old truism crumbles into folly, some dogma 
shows thin and evanescent, some fundamen- 
tal principle of modernism reveals itself as 
a superstition as groundless as those we long 
ago had cast away. Meanwhile " here we 
have no continuing city;" the sands slide 
under our feet, and we touch nothing tan- 
gible as we reach out for support in a dark- 
ness that shows no sign of breaking. 

Amongst these revelations there is none 
more unexpected, more baffling in the fact 
of its existence or broader in its ramifica- 
tions, than the loss of leadership. To-day, 
when men cry aloud, as never before, for 
guides, interpreters, leaders, there is none to 
answer ; in any category of life, issuing out of 
any nation. None, that is, that matches in 
power the exigency of the demand. There 

[2] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

are those that honestly try to lead; there 
are those that increasingly lead under the 
grim schooling of war, slowly, painfully 
and towards an end still obscure and unde- 
termined. Arduously they struggle to build 
up a following, to see the insane life of the 
moment and see it whole ; to keep ahead of 
the whirlwind of hell-let-loose and direct an 
amazed and disordered society along paths 
of ultimate safety. And always the event 
outdistances them, the phantasmagoria of 
chaos whirls bewilderingly beyond, and 
either they follow helplessly or are sucked 
into the rushing vacuum that comes in the 
wake of progressive destruction. In the im- 
mediate necessity of war one august general 
after another receives command, plays his 
part for a day, and disappears, marked by 
comparative failure if not by demonstrated 
incompetence. Potential reputations break 
down and are forgotten, in Mesopotamia, 
Gallipoli, Galicia, Roumania, the Trentino, 
the Carso, Champagne, the Argonne: on 
the North Sea, in the Channel, through the 
Mediterranean. The battle fronts east, west, 
south, bury more than the bodies of dead 
soldiers, for reputations are interned with 
them in a quick and merciful oblivion. 

[3] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

Still, fate is a whimsical arbiter, whose 
operations are unaccountable, and any day 
may appear the great leaders thus far coldly 
refused to the desperate and death-locked 
armies, but there is little hope for a like 
mercy in statesmanship. The years just be- 
fore the war were tumultuous with the petty 
machinations of the degenerate political and 
diplomatic successors of the masterly ma- 
nipulators of destiny of the nineteenth cen- 
tury. Noble or cynical, they were leaders, 
these men of a dead generation: Metter- 
nich, Cavour, Disraeli, Bismarck, Glad- 
stone, Gambetta, Lincoln, and they have left 
few successors, either to their glory or their 
infamy. Can there be honest comparison be- 
tween the political leaders in Great Britain 
to-day and Peel, Palmerston, Gladstone, Dis- 
raeli and Salisbury, between the flotsam and 
jetsam of French parliamentary turbulence 
and Thiers, Gambetta, de Freycinet? Con- 
trast the men now controlling the destinies 
of Italy with those of the epoch of the Lib- 
eration; match the present politicians of 
Germany with those to the front from 1870 
to 1895; place in one column the members 
of President Wilson's Cabinet, the leaders 
in Congress, the Governors of the several 

[4] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

States, and in the other the American politi- 
cal forces from i860 on for the space of a 
generation. Whether you like them all or 
not, these men of an elder age, one thing you 
must concede, and that is their capacity and 
their dominance as leaders. 

So one might traverse the fields of reli- 
gion, philosophy, literature, art, education, 
matching each man who claims or is ac- 
corded priority, with those of the immediate 
past whose historical place is now as assured 
as was their acceptance during their lives. 
Long after the contemporary list finds 
" finis " written beneath, the other calendar 
continues until its length is greater by ten- 
fold. Not only this, but there is unques- 
tioned difference in quality; as between 
Harmsworth and Gladstone, Bryan and 
Cleveland, Benedict XV and Leo XIII, 
Wells and Emerson, Ornstein and Brahms. 
The leaders that once were, found their fol- 
lowing through comprehension of their own 
force and dominance, those that are now, 
faute de mieux, and because there are no 
others to lead. 

Inch by inch the valleys are being filled 
and the mountains brought low. More ar- 
duously the man stronger than another lifts 

[5] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

above the level uniformity; a few still con- 
tinue, lasting over from an earlier genera- 
tion, but in a year or two they also will 
pass, and few indeed are rising to take their 
place. Meanwhile " the hungry sheep look 
up, and are not fed," for the soul of sane 
man demands leadership, and in spite of aca- 
demic aphorisms on Equality, a dim con- 
sciousness survives of the fundamental truth 
that without strong leadership democracy 
is a menace; without strong leadership 
culture and even civilization will pass 
away. 

Now as always the great mass of men look 
for the master-man who can form in definite 
shape the aspirations and the instincts that 
in them are formless and amorphous; who 
can lead where they are more than willing 
to follow, but themselves cannot mark the 
way; who can act as a centripetal force and 
gather into potent units the diffuse atoms of 
like will but without co-ordinating ability. 
So great is this central human instinct (which 
was not only the foundation of feudalism 
but harks back to the very beginnings of 
society) , that when the great leader is not re- 
vealed he is invented out of the more impu- 
dent element of any potential group, assur- 
[6] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

ance taking the place of competence ; or opti- 
mistically assumed, the most available being 
dragged from his obscurity and pitched into 
a position, or burdened with a task, outside 
the limits of his ability — as he himself only 
too often knows. 

And as the supply of leaders diminishes 
the more reckless becomes the desperate 
choice. It is perhaps not so much that men 
now reject all leadership as it is that they 
blindly accept the inferior type; the spe- 
cious demagogue, the unscrupulous master 
of effrontery. Men follow to-day as they 
always have and always will, the difference 
lies in the quality of those that are followed. 
In default of the leader of the old type, the 
man who first saw beyond the obvious and 
drew others after him by force of vision and 
will and personal quality, the group, and the 
super-group which we call the mob, create 
their leaders in their own image, and out of 
their own material. Giolitti and Caillaux, 
Ramsay Macdonald, Lenine and La Follette 
are the synthetic product of a mechanical 
process of self-expression on the part of 
groups of men without leaders, but who must 
have them and so make shift to precipitate 
them in material form out of the undiffer- 

[7] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

entiated mass of their common inclinations, 
passions and prejudices. 

It is because of this that religion is no 
longer marked by the dominance of figures 
like St. Paul, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, St. 
Francis, St. Catherine of Siena, or even like 
Luther, Calvin, John Wesley, but rather 
by the uncouth flotsam of the intellectual 
underworld or the obscurantist faquirs of a 
decadent Orientalism. It is because of this 
that no longer a Plato or an Aristotle, a St. 
Thomas Aquinas, or a Duns Scotus, a Kant, 
a Descartes, or a Herbert Spencer controls 
the destinies of philosophy, but semi-con- 
verted novelists, jejune instructors in psy- 
chology, and imperfectly developed but 
sufficiently voluble journalists. It is because 
of this that salutary movements like social- 
ism, trades-unionism and political reform 
are betrayed by the leaders that, for lack of 
better, have been pitchforked into pre-emi- 
nence, and who, degraded and debased by 
dulness, obliquity of vision and crude in- 
competence, become not a benefit but a 
menace. 

The argument that we are too near the 
present (since we ourselves are the present) 
to estimate greatness or establish our stand- 

[8] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

ard of comparative values, but that another 
generation will find amongst our contempo- 
raries what we have missed, has no validity. 
I am speaking of leadership, and leadership 
is not posthumous. We knew, those of us 
who entered into the activities of life about 
1880, that we were "surrounded by such a 
cloud of witnesses," that the world was so 
rich in leadership — either for wisdom or 
folly — we lacked no possible followings for 
our choice, but rather were confused by the 
plethora of options. There was no doubt 
then that there were great men around and 
about us. We were all hero-worshippers 
then, and there was sufficient reason for our 
worship. I have made a list of the men who 
were living in 1880, all of whom were great 
captains, and who would be accepted by all 
as leaders of men: there are sixty of them, 
and I can add another hundred of only a 
little less eminence, but whose claims some 
might contest. All of these hundred and 
sixty "immortals" had died before 1905, 
and I challenge anyone to fill a tenth of 
the places they left vacant with the names, 
unknown in 1 880, of men whose claim can 
be unquestioned. 

A generation that contains such a group 

[9] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

t 

as Emerson, Carlyle, Ruskin, Matthew Ar- 
nold, Herbert Spencer, Darwin, Bismarck, 
Disraeli, Cavour, Wagner, Browning, 
William Morris, Tourgeneff, Stevenson, 
Leo XIII, Cardinal Newman, Karl Marx 
and von Moltke is a generation that lacks 
nothing in leadership, and when is added a 
further century and a half of names, all 
practically of the same grade and class, we 
can only look back on those astonishing 
years with admiration, and then around at 
our own time, with the greatest issues in a 
thousand years clamouring for solution and 
almost none to lead in the solving, appalled 
and despairing, while we reach out blindly 
for some explanation of the cataclysm that 
has occurred. 

There are those who will claim that 
the leadership has not been lost but only 
changed in direction. They will say that 
the leaders are now to be found in the ranks 
of applied science, of industrial exploita- 
tion and organization, of high finance and 
economic " efficiency." They will offer as 
their contribution Edison and Marconi and 
Krupp; Sage, Rockefeller, Morgan, Car- 
negie and the great Hebrew financiers of Eu- 
rope. They will offer Ford, Harmsworth, 

[10] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

Hearst; the packers of Chicago, the mill 
magnates of New England, the coal and iron 
barons of Pennsylvania. Their contention 
may be admitted ; the leadership exists, and 
it has changed direction; the point is, how- 
ever, that this leadership, while it may con- 
ceivably supplement that of an earlier day 
in other fields, may, under no circumstance 
whatever, be assumed to serve as a substitute. 
Mr. Abraham Flexner may well be held 
to contribute something (its essential value 
is not for the moment in question) to the 
idea of education as it was expounded by 
Cardinal Newman or Arnold of Rugby; 
Mr. Carnegie's vision of culture is not one 
that came within the purview of Emerson 
or Matthew Arnold or William Morris, 
while the original and varied, if not always 
edifying, religious cults of the last genera- 
tion open up possibilities not indicated by 
Dr. Martineau or Bishop Brooks or even 
Cardinal Manning. Certainly there is some- 
thing in vers libre and post-impressionism 
and the products of the cubist sculptors that 
escapes one in Browning and Burne-Jones 
and Saint-Gaudens. Considered in a supple- 
mentary sense these protagonists of modern- 
ism may be an extension of the principles of 

[II] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

their immediate precursors (even of all an- 
tecedent creators and leaders during the en- 
tire range of recorded history), but when it 
is assumed that they take their place the 
argument needs fortifying by something 
other than either the dictum itself or their 
own accomplishments. 

In any case the day of great leaders has 
passed. If we take the Cardinal of Malines 
as a standard, as one man at least who meas- 
ures up to the great controlling and direct- 
ing agencies of the last quarter of the nine- 
teenth century, we shall find it hard to pick 
others to place in his class. Certainly not 
the successor of Leo XIII and Innocent III, 
of Gregory VII and Gregory the Great; 
nor any of the present College of Cardinals. 
Honour and devotion, learning and piety 
are not wanting, but where is the vision, 
where the qualities of command and domi- 
nation, where the power and the will that 
mark the captains of men? Neither from 
Rome nor Moscow nor Canterbury, neither 
from the Episcopal Church nor from the 
Protestant denominations, comes the high 
call for men to rise up and follow along the 
lines revealed by clear vision and under the 
dynamic force of personal leadership. Halt- 

[12] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

ing and hesitant, bewildered by opportu- 
nism and expediency, dumb before a crisis 
beyond their powers to meet, the shepherds 
and pastors of flocks already more than dec- 
imated, shake in their indecision, put the 
great issue to one side, and while they wait 
helplessly for a time more in scale with their 
abilities, turn to the old round of theological 
argument and disciplinary bickerings, leav- 
ing the fate of their sheep to be determined 
after a fashion they cannot control, and the 
humbler clergy busy themselves with paro- 
chial routine or, to their honour, find on the 
blazing and thundering battle fronts of all 
Europe opportunity for heroic service in the 
trenches and often a glorious death. 

Nor in philosophy is the condition very 
different. There were not wanting, in the 
immediate years before the war, men of 
"light and leading," though apart from 
Bergson, James and Chesterton (though it 
may seem strange to name the last in this 
connection) , they were hardly of the calibre 
of their forebears. James is dead, Bergson 
almost completely silent, while Chesterton, 
perhaps under the compulsion of his grave 
illness, fails to meet the standard of his ear- 
lier period, except perhaps in "The Crimes 

[13] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

of England " and " A Short History of Eng- 
land." Dr. Jacks comes well to the fore on 
occasion, and Dr. Figgis and March Phil- 
lips, but Bernard Shaw has silenced his phil- 
osophical cynicism and Wells alone insists 
on his own narrow vision, brought over from 
the ante-bellum epoch, with all its mechanis- 
tic formulae and indeterminate determinism. 
Of all the ruined sanctuaries, that of states- 
manship is the most desolate. It was suffi- 
ciently laid waste in the years just before 
the war, when diplomacy, degenerate and 
incompetent, toiled along the dishonoured 
road that led from the Congress of Berlin. 
Into the coil of cynicism and trickery, Ed- 
ward VII and President Cleveland brought 
some elements of honesty and good sense, but 
the chancelleries of Vienna, Berlin, Paris, 
London, Petersburg were united in one 
thing, and that their devotion to the secret, 
the serpentine and the oblique. The " Bal- 
ance of Power," poisonous heritage from 
the Treaty of Berlin, controlled all that was 
thought or done, and under its malignant 
spell considerations of honour, justice and 
righteousness vanished from the secret de- 
liberations of the various and ever-changing 
groups of inferior conspirators. Since the 

[14] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

opening of the war small men, pitched neck- 
and-crop into big places, have struggled 
against this legacy, and with scant success. 
Government in France at the opening of 
the first of the Seven Seals, was a tangle 
of political corruption complicated by ter- 
ror of what socialism would demand next; 
the prolonged crisis has produced — Briand, 
and no more, a small man, strengthened by 
responsibility and opportunity, who bore 
himself with firmness and honesty. He has 
now been deposed through the machinations 
of the still operative political cabals, to give 
place to the venerable but neither stimu- 
lating nor convincing Ribot, the colourless 
Painleve and the superannuated Clemen- 
ceau. England offered Asquith, a somewhat 
sinuous and agile mediocrity now smashed 
by an extraordinary journalistic phenome- 
non who has also been largely responsible for 
Lloyd George, another small man, essentially 
the middle-class demagogue of the first dec- 
ade of the century, who has also been forti- 
fied and chastened by the compelling force of 
anonialous circumstances. With him appear 
men like Churchill, still bending under the 
weight of tragic fiascos, Carson, whom the 
war saved from becoming a rebel and an 

[15] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

outlaw, together with a numerous clan of 
financiers and industrial magnates, some of 
whom had already exchanged their historic 
Hebraic cognomens for others associated, 
if not with their own genealogy, at least 
with the Norman conquest. Italy, after 
getting rid of her political hucksters and 
demagogues, has produced none of even 
moderate distinction to take their place. In 
the Balkans Jonescu and the Cretan Vene- 
zelos arrived with some heralding of trum- 
pets, but neither has succeeded in accom- 
plishing anything in particular, and both are 
now relegated to the category of geniuses 
"without the enacting clause." Leaping 
suddenly into the Russian limelight come 
Miliukoff, Count LvoflF and Kerensky; the 
revolution is effected, the exaltation of the 
"Oath of the Tennis Court" is repeated, 
and at once, from far down amongst the sub- 
merged majority, anarchy and insane folly 
rise up, insistent, not to be denied, and al- 
ready their power is in eclipse, extinguished 
by the rising tide of nihilism and dishonour 
— leaders who could not lead. 

As for the Teutonic Empires, from Kaiser 
to Scheidemann there is only mediocrity 
masquerading in the tarnished regalia of 

[i6] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

Bismarck and Andrassy, Precariously von 
Bethmann, with phantasmal Austrian nobles, 
insecure Hungarian magnates and Osmanli 
pashas, struggles to meet increasingly im- 
possible problems at home and abroad, and 
the time is not far away when the final crisis 
a Bismarckmight victoriously have met, will 
show them thin and evanescent, pale futili- 
ties who could not lead, neither could they 
control. And America? Well, when the 
war broke we had three potential leaders, 
the President, Colonel Roosevelt and Mr. 
Bryan, together with the untried forces of 
Cabinet, Congress and the State and munici- 
pal governments. What had been the result 
on these varied personalities of the unex- 
ampled -stimulus of a world in chaos if not 
in dissolution? Thus far, apart from the 
President, the three and a half years of uni- 
versal liquidation have neither produced a 
leader unknown before nor raised the stand- 
ard of individuals or of the general mass of 
politicians. On the whole the average has 
been lowered. If on the one hand we have 
the reliable honesty and ability of men like 
Senators Lodge, Borah and Williams, with 
the mysterious and promising figure of 
Colonel House, we find on the other the 

[17] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

ominous figures of Stone, Cummins, Gronna, 
Clark, Vardaman, La Follette, together with 
the depressing personalities that dominate 
and give its colour to the Cabinet. Outside 
administration circles the reader may pick 
from the several States such men as he con- 
siders measure up to the old standard of 
effective leadership, or even to that of the 
era just preceding the war. Of the three 
conspicuous figures first named, one appears 
to have forfeited the position open to him 
of great constructive leadership while hon- 
ourably refusing to follow up the sinister 
opportunities revealed in the earlier days of 
the war, and has retired into an oblivion 
only broken in the beginning by sheer force 
of ingratiating oratory. The second strove 
for a renewal of that popular confidence and 
to restore that popular following he so emi- 
nently deserved, and failed, though in this 
failure was less of discredit to him than to 
a public somewhat defective in its powers of 
perception and in its standard of compara- 
tive values. And the third, the most august 
figure of all? Here, if anywhere to-day, is 
revealed the argument against the thesis I 
adduce — perhaps as the exception that 
proves the rule. The most astute politician 
[i8] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

America has produced since Andrew Jack- 
son (if not since Jefferson), with an infal- 
lible sense for apprehending the unexpressed 
will of a working majority, he pursued for 
three years the standard method of contem- 
porary politics, gauging this will by impec- 
cable instinct, making it his own, and so 
becoming the acceptable type of leader who 
does not lead but obediently follows on 
where the majority-will indicates the way. 
Then almost insensibly this method changed ; 
little by little as the inclusive incapacity of 
the democratic method revealed itself it was 
relegated to the background while a very real 
and equally constructive leadership took its 
place. Step by step the advance has been 
progressive and explicit; miraculously the 
nation as a whole acknowledges and accepts, 
while the influence of this novel and reassur- 
ing leadership daily reaches further and 
further into the other nations of the earth. 
It is a single leadersfhip : Cabinet and Con- 
gress are granted little part therein and only 
the mysterious influences of unofficial and 
personal advisers shyly reveal themselves 
from time to time. It is a real leadership, 
of the old and almost forgotten type, and in- 
creasingly is it bringing coherency out of 

[19] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

the debilitated confusion of democratic 
methods and parliamentary incapacity that 
have hampered our allies and imperilled 
their cause since the beginning of the war. 
And now opportunity opens before him; 
opportunity not only national but world- 
wide. If he wills he may become the 
co-ordinating, the directing, and the con- 
structive force in the world. Arbiter of De- 
mocracy, re-creator of the true democracy of 
ideal. The old tradition of politics, the sen- 
sitive appreciation of a vacillating majority- 
will and the subtle following thereof in all 
its tergiversations, has been abandoned in 
favour of a daring and therefore true leader- 
ship prefigured by some of the finest verbal 
pronouncements of high principle the Re- 
public has thus far heard. The old days 
when we were told of a " peace without vic- 
tory," and that we as a nation had no quarrel 
with the German people ; the days when we 
were assured that the aims of Germany and 
those of the Allies were apparently much 
the same; the days of experimental adven- 
tures in compromise are now very far away. 
Does this mean that from now on the course 
followed will be increasingly exalted, high- 
spirited and courageous? It may well be; 
[20] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

if so, and to that extent, the present lack of 
world-leadership will be corrected. 

Tested by every standard this leaders-hip 
is now deficient both in quantity and quality. 
To what are we to attribute this anomalous 
condition? Why is it that our lack is not 
only appalling when compared with those 
periodical moments of the past when, as in 
the eleventh century, every nation of Europe 
was following leaders as amazing in number 
as they were commanding in ability, but 
even in contrast with the last quarter of the 
nineteenth century. This was not an epoch 
to which future generations will look back 
with any notable degree of pride, yet it left 
us a heritage of great names that, as I have 
said before, reached the number of one hun- 
dred and fifty, a count that could be in- 
creased to two hundred if the arbitrary 
quarter century I have chosen, during which 
all were still living, were extended by ten 
years before 1880 and by five after 1905. 

The answer is simple, but it is an answer 
that will be rejected with practical unanim- 
ity. Democracy has achieved its perfect 
work and has now reduced all mankind to a 
dead level of incapacity where great leaders 
are no longer either wanted or brought into 

[21] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

existence, while society itself is unable, of 
its own power as a whole, to lift itself from 
the nadir of its own uniformity. 

"The world must be made safe for de- 
mocracy" is a noble phrase, but it is mean- 
ingless without its corollary, "democracy 
must be made safe for the world." This 
latter condition does not exist. For exactly 
one hundred years democracy has suffered 
a progressive degeneration until it is now 
not a blessing but a menace. 

This categorical statement demands both 
amplification and explanation. In the first 
place the word " democracy " is used in its 
current sense, as representing both the im- 
plicit aim and the explicit result of individ- 
ual and community life during the last two 
generations in Great Britain, France and the 
United States; and in all other countries 
where any portion of the democratic system 
has been put in practice, including the very 
recent "republics" of Portugal, China and 
Russia. It covers not only political agencies 
and method's but all those other forms of ac- 
tivity, such as organized religion, education 
and social life, where democratic principles 
and devices have been increasingly adopted. 

It does not mean the real democracy, 

[22] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEPIOCRITY 

which is the noblest ideal ever discovered 
by man or revealed to him. True democ- 
racy means three things : Abolition of Privi- 
lege; Equal Opportunity for All; and Utili- 
zation of Ability. Unless democracy 
achieves these things it is not democracy, 
and no matter how " progressive " its meth- 
ods, how apparently democratic its machin- 
ery, it may perfectly well be an oligarchy, 
a kakistocracy or a tyranny. The three im- 
perative desiderata named above may be 
achieved under a monarchy, they may be 
lost in a republic, the mechanism does not 
matter. One of the chief faults with what 
we call our democracy is our stolid failure 
to understand that there is a democratic ideal 
and a democratic method, that there is not 
necessarily any connection between the two, 
and that generally speaking the democratic 
method (unstable, constantly changing its 
form) is incapable of accomplishing the 
democratic ideal. 

That " democracy" for which the war is 
to make the world safe is of course the de- 
mocracy of ideal; it could not conceivably 
be the democracy of method for this had 
proved itself in the two generations before 
the war corrupt, incompetent and ridicu- 

[23] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

lous, while during the war it has revealed 
increasingly its almost sublime incapacity in 
all matters where it has had a part; from 
Westminster to Rome, from Washington to 
Petrograd. The only thing that has thus far 
saved the Allies from the utmost penalty of 
their common democracy of method ha« 
been the process which has proceeded every- 
where of eliminating the democracy and 
substituting a pure and perfectly irrespon- 
sible absolutism, whether of one man or a 
very small committee. 

Now for the last hundred years the world 
has abandoned itself to an insane devising 
of new mechanical toys for the achieving 
of democracy: representative government, 
the parliamentary system, universal suf- 
frage, the party system, the secret ballot, ro- 
tation in office, the initiative, referendum 
and recall, popular election of members of 
upper legislative houses, woman suffrage, 
direct legislation. All have failed to obtain 
abolition of privilege, equal opportunity 
and utilization of ability, on the contrary, 
they have worked in the opposite direction, 
and so far as these three things are con- 
cerned, the peoples are worse off than they 
were fifty years ago, While during the same 

[24] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

period government and society have become 
progressively more venal, less competent 
and further separated from the ideals of 
honour, duty and righteousness. Mean- 
while so obsessed have we become by our 
pursuit of new devices for obtaining democ- 
racy, and by our search for nostrums to cure 
the ills of our constant failures, we have 
now wholly forgotten in what democracy 
consists. 

In the year before the war the govern- 
ment of the great democracies — Great 
Britain, France and the United States — 
was illogical, inefficient, and widely severed 
from the one object of obtaining for all men 
justice and the rule of law. It was pro- 
foundly cursed by the incubus of little men 
in great office, by chaotic, selfish and unin- 
telligent legislation, dull, stupid and fre- 
quently venal administration, and by par- 
tial, unscrupulous and pettifogging judicial 
procedure. Everywhere the bulk of legis- 
lation increased to preposterous propor- 
tions as its quality degenerated. Superfi- 
cial, doctrinaire, and engendered by selfish 
personal interests, it ceased to command re- 
spect or even obedience in proportion as it 
became vacillating and insecure. Legisla- 

[25] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

tive decrees, subject to sudden abrogation 
or reversal, took the place of laws. With 
the party system dominant (now severed en- 
tirely from fundamental principle and be- 
come simply the engine of spoils), demo- 
cratic administrative machinery became the 
obedient agency of a partizan and irrespon- 
sible committee, maintaining itself through 
purchased "honours," and exemption 
from well-deserved penalties, in England; 
through alliances with secret and equally 
irresponsible cabals whose object was plun- 
der of one sort or another, in France; 
and through deals, spoils and "pork," in 
the United States. Everywhere the standard 
of personal ability sank lower and lower, 
until all manner of ignorant, incapable and 
frequently venal men, without culture, tra- 
dition or principle, forced up from the sub- 
merged strata of society, entered into the leg- 
islative and executive and administrative 
departments of government and took pos- 
session! The kind of men rife in the 
Chambre des Deputes and in the short-lived 
ministries were of the same type found in 
the provincial mairies, ignorant, doctrinaire, 
self-sufficient, with the insolence of power 
clouding even what flickerings of native in- 
[26] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

telligence or honour they may have pos- 
sessed. The full story of what happened in 
England between the death of Gladstone 
and the triumph of Lloyd George has not 
yet been written, but the facts are known if 
unavowed. Autocracy in its worst form, in 
Byzantium, the Renaissance or the eight- 
eenth century, contains no more sordid ex- 
amples of base trafficking in honours, emol- 
uments and privileges, while never was the 
personal quality of the beneficiaries so radi- 
cally unworthy and so malevolent in its in- 
fluence on the State. 

During the Middle Ages, when the ideal 
of democracy was at its highest point, and 
v/hen it was most nearly achieved, it was 
held as incontrovertible that the purpose of 
political organization was primarily ethical 
and moral, and that its function was the 
achievement of righteousness and justice. 
Authority was from God, and the power 
also to enforce that authority, but both were 
operative only when they were used for 
right ends. ^^ La dame ne le sire n'en est 
seigneur se non dou dreit." Equally un- 
questioned was the fact that law was not 
made, but was the concrete expression of that 
morality, right and justice that had grown 

[27] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

with the life of the community, exactly ex- 
pressing the needs of society, and with the 
moral sanction of communal life behind it. 
" There is no King where will rules and not 
law" was the Mediaeval conviction as op- 
posed to the absolutism of the Renais- 
sance first expressed in theoretical form by 
Macchiavelli. Finally the Middle Ages 
asserted that Government was a solemn con- 
tract between ruled and rulers, to be broken 
by neither without the abrogation of the 
contract. Treason on the part of the sov- 
ereign was then as clearly recognized a pos- 
sibility as treason on the part of the people. 
This great ideal, the noblest man has yet 
conceived in the realm of civil law, was com- 
pletely destroyed by the Renaissance, and 
absolutism took its place. This, having 
made itself intolerable, was in its turn de- 
stroyed in the latter part of the eighteenth 
and the first quarter of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, when once more the old ideals of Me- 
diaeval freedom came to the front though 
in a somewhat different verbal guise. The 
Oath of the Tennis Court, the Declaration 
of Independence, the Reform Laws of Eng- 
land were all assertions of the true prin- 
ciples of the real democracy, but they were 
[28] 



-^ - 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

destined either to fail of fulfillment or to 
only a brief duration of power, partly be- 
cause of the s'hattering of the sense of right 
and wrong by Calvinism and other Protes- 
tant phenomena, partly because their birth 
coincided with an industrial development 
that blotted out for the time all considera- 
tions except those of material benefit and of 
selfish advancement. Here and there, for 
brief periods of time, righteous impulses 
made operative a true democracy, but by the 
middle of the century the battle had been 
lost: materialism, omnipotent in its power, 
invincible through its self-created energies, 
was everywhere supreme, and from then on 
was recorded only the progressive develop- 
ment of a conscienceless material imperial- 
ism, the incessant invention of new and al- 
ways unsuccessful machines for the obtain- 
ing of the old democratic ideals, the growth, 
through rage and impotence at the solemn 
mockery, of violent and revolutionary prop- 
aganda along nihilistic, anarchistic or so- 
cialistic lines, and finally the* apotheosis of 
inefliciency, injustice and unrighteousness 
that held the democracies of the world when 
the Teutonic Powers made their desperate 
but perfectly logical attempt to establish the 

[29] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

hegemony of Europe under the dominion of 
efficiency, materialism and force. 

That very wise Frenchman, Emile 
Faguet, has said, "The sum and substance 
of the Revolution was to substitute for 
'Votre Majeste' 'Votre Majorite.'" The 
absolutism and the tyranny remained, only 
its habitat and its personality were changed. 
Something however was lost, and that the 
possibility that legislation and the execution 
of the laws might sometimes approach in- 
telligence and efficiency. In another place 
the same author says : " Our examination of 
modern democracy has brought us to the 
following conclusions. The representation 
of the country is reserved for the incom- 
petent and also for those biassed by passion, 
who are doubly incompetent. The rep- 
resentatives of the people want to do 
everything themselves. They do every- 
thing badly and infect the government and 
the administration with their passion and 
incompetence." 

Democratic government for the last 
twenty-five years has neither desired nor 
created leaders of an intellectual or moral 
capacity above that of the general mass of 
voters, and when by chance these appear 

[30] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY . 

they are abandoned for a type that is not of 
the numerical average but below it, and the 
standard has been lowering itself steadily 
for a generation. The strong man, strong 
of mind, of will, of moral sense, the man 
born to create and to lead, now seeks other 
fields for his activity, or rather one field 
alone, and that the domain of "big busi- 
ness " and finance. Here at least he finds 
scope for his force and will and leadership, 
even if the opportunities to use his moral 
sense to advantage leave something to be 
desired. The world no longer wants or 
knows how to use statesmen, philosophers, 
artists, religious prophets and shepherds, 
but rather " captains of industry," directors 
of "high finance," "efliciency experts," 
shrewd manipulators of popular opinion 
through journalism, or of popular votes 
through primaries, political conventions, 
and the legislative chambers of representa- 
tive government. Here also the demand 
creates the supply. 

Tributary to this demand is the current 
system of popular education, probably the 
worst ever devised so far as character-mak- 
ing is concerned. Secularized, eclectic, vo- 
cational and intensive educational systems 

[31] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

do not educate in any true sense of the word, 
while they do not develop character but 
even work in the opposite direction. The 
concrete results of popular education, as this 
has been conducted during the last genera- 
tion, have been less and less satisfactory both 
from the point of view of culture and that 
of character, and the product of schools and 
colleges tends steadily towards a lower and 
lower level of attainment. Why anything 
else should be expected is hard to see. The 
new education, with religion and morals 
ignored except under the aspect of archae- 
ology; with Latin and Greek superseded, 
and all other cultural studies as well ; with 
logic, philosophy and dialectic abandoned 
for psychology, biology and "business ad- 
ministration"; the new education with its 
free electives and vocational training, and 
its apotheosis of theoretical and applied sci- 
ence (a glory and a dominion mitigated 
only by the insidious penetration of semi- 
professional athletics) — this new educa- 
tion was conceived and put in practice for 
the chief purpose of fitting men for the sort 
of life that was universal during the elapsed 
years of the present century, and this life 
had no place for pre-eminence, no use for 

[32] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

leadership, except in the categories of busi- 
ness, applied science and finance. It did its 
work to admiration, and the result is before 
us in the shape of a society that has been 
wholly democratized, not by filling in the 
valleys and lifting the malarial swamps of 
the submerged masses, but by a levelling of 
all down to their own plane. 

The disappearance of religion as a vital 
force in human life and society, during the 
last century, has been a very potent agency 
in urging political, educational and in- 
dustrial democracy towards its final tri- 
umph, and in fixing the manacles of capital- 
ism and industrial slavery on the world. 
Since the Reformation religion has been 
only a dissolving tradition, without any real 
force or potency in and over society. For 
individuals it has, from time to time, pos- 
sessed all its old energy: over them it has 
exerted all its old influence, and just as great 
saints, confessors and even martyrs have shed 
their glory over the last century as at any 
time in the past. But since the Reformation 
religion has gone back to the catacombs 
whence Constantine had drawn it fifteen 
centuries ago: it is now the precious pos- 
session of the individual, hidden, cloistered, 

[33] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

fearful of coming to the light. As a domi- 
nating influence over states, as a controlling 
power in diplomacy, business, politics, phi- 
losophy, education, art, or over communi- 
ties as such, it is now, and has been for a 
long time, a negligible factor. 

This is true as well of Catholicism as of 
Protestantism. For generations at a time 
it has been the effective moral and spiritual 
guardian of nations, and while this was true 
civilization flourished as neither before nor 
since. The Renaissance destroyed the claim 
of the Church, as it was then, to such moral 
and spiritual leadership, and the Reforma- 
tion and Revolution destroyed the fact. For 
a time, as a result of the Counter- Reforma- 
tion, something of the old leadership was 
restored in all its plenitude, where Protes- 
tantism had not taken effect, but little by 
little it surrendered to the new spirit in the 
world, until now it is not only impotent 
amongst the nations, it is as well conditioned 
by the same considerations of materialism 
and opportunism and a false democracy, as 
Protestantism, industrialism and the capi- 
talistic-scientific state. The Church still 
carries in petto all that was ever her pos- 
session, including infinite possibilities of 

[34] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

beneficent iaction and influence; at present, 
however, this is inoperative, and with the 
rest of the world she stands hesitant and 
difl[ident, rejected by the majority of men, 
ignored by states and denied even the form 
of leadership. 

Democracy in government and democ- 
racy in education have each played their 
part in the destruction of leadership and 
the establishing of the reign of mediocrity. 
There is yet a third aspect, or rather result, 
of the same force, which may perhaps prove 
in the end the most significant of all, and 
that is the democratization of society by the 
breaking down of the just and normal bar- 
riers of race, first through the so-called 
"melting pot" process, second through the 
substitution of the mongrel for the product 
of pure blood by reason of the free and reck- 
less mixing of incompatible strains. From 
the beginning of modern democracy it has 
been with its adherents a cardinal point of 
faith that a "free country" should set no 
limits to immigration of any race, class or 
degree of cultural development. It is 
equally a dogma that under a true democ- 
racy there is no discrimination possible be- 
tween individuals on the score of difference 

[35] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

in race, blood or status, and that therefore 
no restrictions should be recognized or es- 
tablished which would control or limit 
absolute freedom of union in marital rela- 
tions and the legal procreation of children. 
The nineteenth century superstition, 
erected by the doctrinaire protagonists of 
" evolution," that human progress was both 
automatic and constant, through the acqui- 
sition of new qualities by education, the 
force of environment, and "natural selec- 
tion," has been the scientific justification 
for the supposedly " democratic " principle 
of free immigration and free mating. Were 
the theory demonstrably true it would indeed 
negative the chief arguments for the scrupu- 
lous recognition and preservation of race 
values both in marriage and control of im- 
migration. If character is determined by 
education and environment, and is trans- 
mitted in substance generation after genera- 
tion, the question is manifestly only one of 
enough education, of the right kind, and dis- 
tributed with sufficient generality. Mongol 
and Slovak, Malay and Hottentot stand on 
the same plane with Latin and Saxon and 
Celt, for it is merely a question of educa- 
tion, environment and continued breeding; 

[36] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

good is cumulative, automatically trans- 
mitted, and time is the answer to all. 

On this superstition has been erected the 
great modern system of universal state 
education. With a mechanical exactness it 
has failed to produce appreciable results. 
State education, secularized, standardized, 
compulsory, has left native character un- 
touched, furnishing only a body of faculties, 
used to good ends if such was the character- 
predisposition of the individual, for base 
ends if this race or family predisposition so 
determined. Nor is there any evidence 
whatever that what the father acquires the 
son inherits. It is a commonplace of sociol- 
ogy that the American-born son of the for- 
eign-born immigrant of a decadent race or 
inferior blood who himself had reacted to 
the stimulus of a new environment and un- 
precedented educational opportunities, is 
not in general an advance over his progeni- 
tor either in character or capacity, but rather, 
however great his educational acquirement, 
a retrogression and a return to type. 

Empirical "science" of the nineteenth 
century yields to the more exact science of 
the twentieth century, and it is now ad- 
mitted that acquired characteristics are not 

[37] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

heritable. That which persists is some in- 
delible quality of blood or of race, modified 
by the conjunction of two germ plasms in 
generation; while new species are not the 
result of the building up of one characteris- 
tic added to another by inheritance and the 
process of " natural selection " and the " sur- 
vival of the fittest," but of some cataclysmic 
action the nature and source of which no 
scientist has determined or dared to assume. 

With the breakdown of this once popular 
theory, the factor of blood becomes no longer 
negligible and the doctrine of the omnipo- 
tence of education and environment falls 
to the ground, yet we still continue debauch- 
ing race by free movement of peoples 
through immigration, and by unrestrained 
mating amongst men and women of alien 
racial qualities. In large sections of Amer- 
ica society is now completely mongrel, and 
the same is true of portions of Europe 
where the process is of increasing force. 
Through uncontrolled alliances the same 
thing is happening in blood, and appar- 
ently the whole world is about to repeat 
what already has happened in Russia, the 
Balkans and Central America. 

The appeal of the eugenist to biology and 

[38] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

the testimony of botany and zoology is dan- 
gerous when carried too far — as it gener- 
ally is — for it leaves out of account the ele- 
ment of the soul, which is a factor that 
enters into the human consideration and is 
not operative in the case of plants and beasts. 
For those who deny its existence except as 
a biological product of the working of 
purely physical forces, the democratic prin- 
ciple of the free movement, intercourse and 
mating of peoples of every known blood, 
race and status can only appear the blackest 
and most imbecile crime in the human cal- 
endar. Continued for another generation 
or two the result can only be universal mon- 
grelism and the consequent end of culture 
and civilization. Cross-fertilization and 
the producing of special and higher types 
thereby is a perfectly artificial process, and 
however brilliant the result in the first in- 
stance the tendency of reversion to type is 
inexorable. Either the result is a hybrid 
without power of propagation, or a precari- 
ous phenomenon tending inevitably towards 
a retrogression that in a few generations 
comes back to the normal type. 

Nor is the situation much better when re- 
garded from the standpoint of those who 

[39] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

postulate of each individual a spiritual fac- 
tor that is not the product of biological proc- 
esses but is something of a different nature 
added thereto. This element in the human 
entity works towards the negativing or 
amelioration of the conditions consequent 
on the predispositions determined by hered- 
ity — race factors, blood tendencies, new 
inclinations that are the result of the com- 
bining of two different sets of parental char- 
acteristics — and towards the utilization of 
the possibilities inherent in education and 
environment. It is, however, not omnipo- 
tent; it is conditioned by the nature of the 
various forces with which it deals, and it 
can rise superior to them only when it calls 
into play the energy of those kindred spirit- 
ual forces that exist, are universally avail- 
able, and are the only sure instrument of 
victory over the gravitational pull of a pre- 
determined natural handicap. Recognition 
of, and reliance on, these remedial factors 
decrease in inverse ratio to their necessity, 
and thi-s is true both of the individual and 
the community as a whole. The time comes 
for both when the power of the degenerative 
forces becomes so great through poverty of 
blood, hybridization of race and depravity 

[40] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

of status, that the energy of the spiritual fac- 
tor is negatived, and the individual or the 
community or the race declines, completes 
the final surrender, and fails, disappearing 
in ignominy and oblivion. There is no 
tragedy greater than that of the human soul 
full of the promise and potency and desire 
of good things, imprisoned in the forbid- 
ding circle of mongrel blood, inimical 
inheritance and pernicious environment 
against which it desperately rebels, but from 
which there is no possibility of escape ex- 
cept through the power of supernatural 
assistance on which it no longer possesses 
the impulse or the will to call. 

Democracy of method then, not democ- 
racy of ideal, has not only failed to attain 
the supreme objects for which, in its protean 
forms, it has been devised, it has as well 
brought into existence a system that has 
practically eliminated sane, potent and con- 
structive leadership and has therefore be- 
trayed society, involving it in a profound 
mediocrity which now confronts that fate 
which always follows identical progress in 
other categories of the organic world, — 
reversion to type and ultimate sterility. 

And so we stand to-day where the Great 

[41] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

War has revealed us, peoples without lead- 
ers; helpless, inefficient and, barring the 
miracle of redemption through bitter chas- 
tizement, hurrying on to anarchy or slavery 
as the fortunes of war may determine. The 
true democracy of St. Louis, Edward I 
and Washington is forgotten and a false 
democracy has taken its place, ertiploy- 
ing the old shibboleths but ignoring the 
thing itself, while inventing one new device 
after another to serve as a red herring drawn 
across the trail pursued implacably by the 
ever-increasing numbers of those who see 
the inefficiency and deceitfulness of it all, 
and maintain their pursuit so that in the end 
they may establish what is to them democ- 
racy pure and simple, but is in fact its 
reductio ad absurdum. 

Whatever the issue of the war there is for 
the world neither release from intolerable 
menace nor yet a proximate salvation. The 
war that is redeeming myriads of souls 
leaves the organic system of society, both ma- 
terial and spiritual, untouched. Were peace 
to come to-morrow, after a brief period of 
readjustment life would go on much as 
before, with industrialism supreme and 
capitalism versus proletarianism the condi- 

[42] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

tioning clauses of its unstable equilibrium; 
with the parliamentary system still in vogue, 
and all this means of incapacity, opportu- 
nism and the political survival of the unfit; 
with religion in a condition of heresy against 
heresy and all against a thin simulacrum of 
Catholicity; with philosophy still clinging 
to the shreds and tatters of evolution or re- 
modelling itself on the plausible lines of an 
intellectualized materialism; with the mon- 
grelizing of blood and community going 
steadily forward, and with education prowl- 
ing through the ruins of scientific determin- 
ism, and struggling ever to build out of its 
shreds and shards some new machine that 
will make even more certain the direct ap- 
plication of scholastic results to the one prob- 
lem of wealth production — with educa- 
tion failing as before to produce leaders to 
fill a demand that no longer exists. 

The best that one can say, if peace really 
comes again and man returns once more to 
his old ways of life, is that this return will 
be for the briefest of periods. The war is 
only the first of a series, for one war alone 
cannot undo the cumulative errors of five 
centuries. Either after a year or two for 
the taking of breath, or merging into it with- 

[43] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

out appreciable break, will come the second 
world-wide convulsion, the war for the revo- 
lutionizing of society, which will run its long 
and terrible course in the determined effort 
to substitute for our present industrial sys- 
tem of life (in itself perhaps the worst man 
has devised) something more consonant 
with the principles of justice. And the 
third, which may also follow immediately 
after the second, or merge into it, or even 
precede it, will be the war between the false 
democracy, now everywhere in evidence, 
and whatever is left of the true democracy 
of man's ideal. From these three visita- 
tions there is no escape. The thing we have 
so earnestly and arduously built up out of 
Renaissance, Reformation and Revolution, 
with industrialism and scientific determin- 
ism as the structural material, is not a civili- 
zation at all, and it must be destroyed in 
order that the ground may be cleared for 
something better. At first it seemed that 
one war might do the work, when we con- 
sidered the glorious regeneration of France 
and the heroism and self-sacrifice of all our 
allies. We know better now. We can see 
that the war has not touched the industrial 
problem at all, nor the religious nor the 

[44] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

social nor the political. Capitalist on the one 
hand, proletarian on the other, when they 
stop to think of themselves in either capac- 
ity, are just of the same old kidney as before, 
and the problem of final solution only hangs 
in abeyance. The same is true of govern- 
ment in France, England, America. Patri- 
otism and devotion, genuine as they are in 
many cases, serve only as a costume easily 
laid aside, and underneath is just the same 
old politician, learning nothing, forgetting 
nothing. Nothing is added to the issue by 
rotund phrases about the warfare for uni- 
versal democracy. When nations are 
blindly and half unconsciously fighting for 
the last shreds of honour and liberty left 
over from ah old Christian civilization, 
their case is not fortified by suggestions that 
they really are struggling to preserve and 
extend representative government, univer- 
sal suffrage or direct legislation; rather 
something is taken away from a holy cause. 
Great leaders could not have averted the 
war, and when Lloyd George declares that 
if Germany had been a democracy the war 
could not have occurred, he is simply in- 
dulging in the standard type of political 
jargon. The issue was too great to be set 

[45] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

aside by a change from imperialistic effi- 
ciency to democratic incapacity. 

On the other hand, it is true that men com- 
petent to see clearly, capable of thinking 
constructively, and with will to lead ca- 
pably, might, at this juncture, make this 
the last war and avert the grim terror of the 
two others to come. " Mene, Tekel, Uph- 
arsin " is on the wall in words of fire and 
blood, and the Belshazzars of modernism 
can neither understand them, nor, which is 
worse, find their interpreter, therefore they 
and we go on to our predestined fate. 

Democracy, without the supreme leader- 
ship of men who by nature or divine direc- 
tion can speak and act with and by author- 
ity, is a greater menace than autocracy. 
Men and nations have been what they have 
been, either for good or evil, not by the will 
of a numerical majority but by the supreme 
leadership of the few — seers, prophets, 
captains of men; and so it always will be. 
When, as now, the greatest crisis in fifteen 
centuries overpasses the world, and society 
sinks under the nemesis of universal medi- 
ocrity, then we realize that the system has 
doomed itself, since, impotent to produce 
leaders, it has signed its own death warrant 

[46] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

What we confront through democracy as 
it is interpreted to-day is a degradation of 
the human potential through a double dissi- 
pation of energy. With no defensible stand- 
ard of comparative values, all the spiritual 
and mental force in men is turned towards 
the realization of the unimportant, to which 
accomplishment it is given with a prodigal- 
ity hardly equalled in the Middle Ages 
when it was lavished on the realization of 
the essential. Simultaneously man has been 
dissipating the stored-up energy of the 
world through his mastery of thermo- 
dynamics and his precarious dominion over 
electrical forces, at such a rate that physical 
potential has been degraded in a hundred 
years more than in the preceding hundred 
centuries. Of what becomes of this fabu- 
lous force, what the permanent contribu- 
tions may be to human life, he cares little. 
It is sufficient for him to realize that he is 
the arbiter of this gigantic power, and if it 
is exploited and dissipated, with nothing of 
lasting value to show, he cares no more than 
any other type of spendthrift. 

As Henry Adams has said, with cold 
irony, "Neither historians nor sociologists 
can afford to let themselves be driven into 

[47] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

admitting that every gain of power — from 
gunpowder to steam, from the dynamo to 
the Daimler motor — has been made at the 
cost of man's and of woman's vitality." Yet 
the fact remains that this is true, and our 
present deplorable estate is partly the result 
of this very degradation and dissipation of 
energy, which has been lavished on activi- 
ties totally unproductive so far as lasting 
benefits are concerned, and spread out over 
a vast area where it disappears without 
results. 

It would seem that there is in the world 
at any one time only a certain amount of 
available spiritual energy, which may be 
preserved and made effectively operative 
through concentration, or lost through dissi- 
pation, while the physical energy, stored up 
out of endless ages, is limited in its original 
quantity, and only added to, if at all, in a 
very small degree. At the beginning of 
each new era this spiritual force is precipi- 
tated in the form of great leaders who trans- 
late it, and transmit it in available form (and 
directed toward productive ends) to the 
general mass of men. Later, the specific 
era having reached its meridian, the leaders 
pass as the prophets before them, and the 

[48] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

force once concentrated in them, and made 
operative, spreads thin and ineffective, and 
at last is dissipated through the general 
mass of men. At the end the prodigal ma- 
jority, having wasted its inherited substance 
in riotous living, falls into puerile contests 
and finally destroys itself, and another era 
takes its place in history to the accompani- 
ment of war and anarchy. So Greece lost 
its leaders and squandered its intellectual 
heritage; so Rome dissipated its Imperial 
force and succumbed to barbarism; so Me- 
diaevalism played fast and loose with its 
spiritual capital, and so modernism is now 
wasting all it had inherited from these three 
antecedent periods, and prepares to take its 
place with antiquity. 

From the earliest Renaissance, great men 
in whom were concentrated the dynamic 
force of a crescent era, built up the impos- 
ing and consistent thing called modernism. 
Great men transformed this into the terms of 
industrial civilization, when they had given 
their commanding abilities to the discovery 
and the utilization of the latent physical 
forces inherent in the world, hitherto un- 
touched by antecedent generations. Then 
they ceased, almost by a cataclysmic cutting- 

[49] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

off, and little men, little in spirit and crafty 
rather than creative, took into their hands the 
carrying out of the last phase of epochal de- 
velopment — the establishing of the hegem- 
ony of the world on a basis of physical and 
intellectual force from which the last ele- 
ments of morality had been purged away. 
Little men, blinded, puzzled and appalled, 
met the crisis as best they could, and for 
three years the world has been plunged in 
carnage and destruction, while military, 
political and psychological blunders have 
.followed each other in a witches' sabbath 
of incapacity. 

And now the victory of the shrewd, cyni- 
cal and definitely immoral forces, so long 
held impossible even in thought, is more 
clearly indicated than at any time since the 
Battle of the Marne. The exploits of 
Russia in its efforts to make the " world safe 
for democracy" may very well prove the 
determining factor. A miracle is of course 
possible, but at present not predicable. A 
Napoleon there, a Charlemagne in France, 
a Washington here, even a Cromwell in 
England, migfht avert the nemesis of medi- 
ocrity, but a Kerensky, a Painleve, a Lloyd 
George does not fill the bill. With a Ger- 

[50] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

man victory and a German peace, modern- 
ism, supreme over all the world, may es- 
tablish a regime of mechanistic efficiency. 
Imperial, Godless, temporally superb, but 
without real leaders, it can only prove an 
interlude of plausibility, a preface to sud- 
den degeneration, and the chaos of the end 
of the century, when the world-slavery of 
Teutonistic modernism goes down to its 
final ruin, will leave the record of the 
present war as that of a mere rehearsal. 

And if the miracle happens; if the leader 
comes who can shatter the Brumagem eflSi- 
ciency of Prussia, and so the world is saved 
from a fate it richly deserves, can we say 
that we have a better hope? Yes, if with 
victory comes realization of what the war 
means, and why it came upon us. For this 
realization one of two things is necessary: 
either such a spiritual regeneration of the 
great mass of people, through suffering and 
sorrow and privation and the bitter school- 
ing of the trenches, that they will follow up 
their victory over the enemy in the field by 
an even greater victory over the enemy at 
home in religion, philosophy and society, 
purging a chastened world of the last folly 
and the last wickedness of modernism; or 

[51] 



THE NEMESIS OF MEDIOCRITY 

the coming once more of the great prophets 
and captains of men who alone can lead as 
their predecessors have always led, and so 
build up a new life on the ruins of an old 
that has passed in blood and flame and 
dishonour. 

If none of these things happens, if there is 
a German peace, or an inconclusive " peace 
through negotiation," or a victory in the 
field for the Allies that is followed by no 
attainment of a new vision ; if in the end the 
world returns to the same system, the same 
basis of judgment, the same standard of 
comparative values that held before the 
war — what then? 

Russia already has given the answer. 



[52] 



3 2044 038 421 871 



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